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Stories on the Spectrum: Digging a Foundation for Success – Part 2

On April 13, we introduced you to real life PHI super hero, Nathaniel. Nathaniel (aka “Digg”) is a bit of an IT guru, with a dash of process improvement, a bundle of Customer Success expertise, and a big ol’ bucket of work ethic, all wrapped up in a brilliant young man who happens to be on the autism spectrum. In our last Stories on the Spectrum article Stories on the Spectrum: Digging a Foundation for Success – Part 1, we learned about Nathaniel’s life after he graduated high school, including part of his post-high school education and early years in the workforce. Today, we would like to continue sharing Digg’s story with you.

After leaving the phone company, Nathaniel decided to put his focus back into school. He realized his declared major, Japanese, was wrong for him and spoke with an academic adviser about changing to something more fitting. Unfortunately, he did not have the GPA to switch majors.  He would need to retake Japanese in order to move forward with the change.

Nathaniel was not comfortable with this requirement. Instead, he opted to continue taking General Education classes and as many base-level Computer Science classes as he was allowed without being admitted into the program. He found he was interested in philosophy and learned about as much as he could on his own time with the help of friends involved in that program.

During this time, he took a job as a Jr. System Administrator for the Mars Space Flight Facility on campus. In this role, he spent time organizing cabling in the server room, installing new servers in the racks, and checking connections on servers that had stopped responding. He spent a good deal of time in his office, which was tucked away from the rest, and had very little interaction with his boss or coworkers. “I never got used to interacting with them, so I never really felt comfortable going to them for help or work to do,” Nathaniel said about these work relationships.

Unfortunately, things took a turn in 2010, and due to financial difficulties, the tuition for his schooling could no longer be paid for. Nathaniel was disappointed, but he had to leave school and work, as his job was one on campus for students.

He didn’t let this setback hold him back from continuing his learning. Nathaniel began attending a local community college that fall semester. He often felt bored in his classes and began skipping some of his computer labs. He had already learned similar information at ASU and this behavior reflected poorly on his academics. Eventually he would leave school, opting to study on his own.

Upon his departure from community college, Nathaniel pursued a programming position. With the recession in full swing, he went without work for a long stretch of time.  He filled his time with cleaning the apartment he shared with his girlfriend and walking their dogs. “I tried getting jobs from time to time, but I would never hear back. I had only 1 interview in 2-3 years of searching,” Nathaniel said.

“Phoenix isn’t the best job market for programming, I guess, especially without a degree.” He went on to explain, “It seemed like there were still a lot of opportunities if I was willing to move up to Northern California. There were always lots of listings in Mountain View.”

Nathaniel’s mom put him into contact with a few small therapy businesses and school districts. He worked as a freelancer, implementing their technology setups. He really enjoyed the work, but found that since he worked freelance jobs inconsistently, it wouldn’t help to sustain a lifestyle.

In the spring of 2016, Nathaniel met Ann Monahan. Ann is the Board President for the Arizona Autism Coalition and the C.O.O. of Pathfinder Health Innovations. The Coalition was having their first expo and was looking for someone to film the presentations. He went on to also film their Annual Conference that year. It was at the Annual Conference when Nathaniel said he approached Ann about a job at PHI.

“I know Nathaniel’s Mom, and a mutual friend of ours asked me in passing if we were hiring. I told her I had a need for a part-time person to do filing, shredding, basic office work. I told her if she knew of anyone to have them send me their resume,” Ann said about her memory of hiring Nathaniel.

The next day, Nathaniel sent his resume to Ann. “I called him in for an interview and hired him immediately.” Nathaniel started with PHI a week after his interview.

“As I started talking to him more, and getting to know him, I realized that he is brilliant. Not kidding, seriously brilliant. I asked him what he liked to do and didn’t like to do, so we started him doing what he liked. Little by little we added in the things he didn’t really like to do and now he’s one of the very best CS and analytic people in our company,” Ann recalled. “He is an extremely valuable member of our team, and I couldn’t be more proud of him, and I’m so thankful to have him at PHI!”

Nathaniel has many plans for his future. Within PHI , Nathaniel said, “I hope to use my experience working with customers and the payers to continue the improvements to the design of our software.”

Ann feels that Nathaniel has a promising future within Pathfinder,

“With his acquired experience with the customer success team combined with his ability to relate to those on the spectrum, and his natural interest in software development, Nathaniel will continue to be a huge asset to the company.”

His personal plans for the future include interest in writing a book and speaking at conferences, which he has already done, to great success, several times with PHI. He also plans to marry his fiancée, Rachel. He attributes much of his success in life so far to two incredible women: his mother and Rachel.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for my mother. She worked her ass off and fought tooth and nail to get me through school with my behavior issues and helped me function in everyday situations. Also, if I hadn’t met Rachel, my life would be very different as well. She’s been the most influential person in my adult life.”

We’re so glad to have had the chance to introduce Digg. He’s an incredible asset to PHI and we love having him on staff. Not only does he gain more knowledge by working with PHI, but his team members all learn and grow by having the opportunity to work with him. We hope you’ll walk away with a better understanding of the “guy who has trained you on Practice Management” at PHI and some of the hurdles he conquered to get to where he is today.





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